Hampton Court Palace in London

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Hampton Court Palace is a royal palace in the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames, Greater London; it has not been inhabited by the British royal family since the 18th century. The palace is located 11.7 mi south west of Charing Cross and upstream of Central London on the River Thames. It was originally built for Cardinal Wolsey, a favourite of King Henry VIII, circa 1514; in 1529, as Wolsey fell from favour, the palace was passed to the King, who enlarged it.

The following century, William III's massive rebuilding and expansion project intended to rival Versailles was begun. Work halted in 1694, leaving the palace in two distinct contrasting architectural styles, domestic Tudor and Baroque. While the palace's styles are an accident of fate, a unity exists due to the use of pink bricks and a symmetrical, albeit vague, balancing of successive low wings.

Today, the palace is open to the public, and a major tourist attraction. It is cared for by an independent charity, Historic Royal Palaces which receives no funding from the Government or the Crown.

The palace's Home Park is the site of the annual Hampton Court Palace Festival and Hampton Court Palace Flower Show. Along with St. James's Palace, it is one of only two surviving palaces out of the many owned by Henry VIII.


Tudor period

Thomas Wolsey, Archbishop of York, Chief Minister and favourite of King Henry VIII, took over the site of Hampton Court Palace in 1514. It had previously been a property of the Order of St John of Jerusalem.) which contained his private rooms (O on plan). Henry VIII stayed in the state apartments as Wolsey's guest immediately after their completion in 1525.

In building his palace, Wolsey was attempting to create a Renaissance cardinal's palace featuring rectilinear symmetrical planning with grand apartments on a raised piano nobile, all rendered with classical detailing. Jonathan Foyle has suggested that it is likely that Wolsey had been inspired by Paolo Cortese's De Cardinalatu, a manual for cardinals that included advice on palatial architecture, published in 1510. The architectural historian Sir John Summerson asserts that the palace shows "the essence of Wolsey—the plain English churchman who nevertheless made his sovereign the arbiter of Europe and who built and furnished Hampton Court to show foreign embassies that Henry VIII's chief minister knew how to live as graciously as any cardinal in Rome." Whatever the concepts were, the architecture is an excellent and rare example of a thirty-year era when English architecture was in a harmonious transition from domestic Tudor, strongly influenced by perpendicular Gothic, to the Italian Renaissance classical style. Perpendicular Gothic owed nothing historically to the Renaissance style, yet harmonised well with it. This blending of styles was realised by a small group of Italian craftsmen working at the English court in the second and third decades of the sixteenth century. They specialised in the adding of Renaissance ornament to otherwise straightforward Tudor buildings.

King Henry died in January 1547 and was succeeded first by his son Edward VI, and then by both his daughters in turn. It was to Hampton Court that Queen Mary I (Henry's eldest daughter) retreated with King Philip II of Spain to spend her honeymoon, after their wedding at Winchester. The marriage was politically expedient rather than a love match. Mary chose Hampton Court as the place for the birth of her first child, which turned out to be the first of two phantom pregnancies. Mary was succeeded by her half-sister, Elizabeth I and it was Elizabeth who had the Eastern kitchen built; today, this is the palace's public tea room.

Stuart period

On the death of Elizabeth I in 1603, the Tudor period came to an end. The Queen was succeeded by her first cousin-twice-removed, the Scottish King, James VI, who became known in England as James I of the House of Stuart.

In 1604, the palace was the site of King James' meeting with representatives of the English Puritans, known as the Hampton Court Conference; while agreement with the Puritans was not reached, the meeting led to James's commissioning of the King James Version of the Bible.

King James was succeeded in 1625 by his son, the ill-fated Charles I. For this king, Hampton Court was to become both his palace and his prison. The country's most eminent architect, Sir Christopher Wren, was called upon to draw the plans, while the master of works was to be William Talman. The plan was for a vast palace constructed around two courtyards at right angles to each other. Wren's design for a domed palace bore resemblances to the work of Jules Hardouin Mansart and Louis Le Vau, both architects employed by Louis XIV at Versailles. Further diversion is added by the circular and decorated windows of the second floor mezzanine. This theme is repeated in the inner Fountain Court, but the rhythm is faster and the windows, unpedimented on the outer façades, are given pointed pediments in the courtyard; this has led the courtyard to be described as "Startling, as of simultaneous exposure to a great many eyes with raised eyebrows."

A well known curiosity of the palace's grounds is Hampton Court Maze; planted in the 1690s by George London and Henry Wise for William III of Orange.<ref name="Thurley, P46"/> The maze covers a third of an acre and contains half a mile of paths. It is possible that the current design replaced an earlier maze planted for Cardinal Wolsey. It was originally planted with hornbeam; it has been repaired latterly using many different types of hedge.

Inspired by narrow views of a Tudor garden that can be seen through doorways in a painting, The Family of Henry VIII, hanging in the palace's Haunted Gallery, a new garden in the style of Henry VIII’s 16th century Privy Gardens has been designed to celebrate the anniversary of that King’s accession to the throne. Sited on the former Chapel Court Garden, it has been planted with flowers and herbs from the 16th century, and is complete by gilded heraldic beasts and bold green and white painted fences. The heraldic beasts carved by Ben Harms and Ray Gonzalez of G&H Studios includes The Golden Lion of England, The White Greyhound of Richmond, The Red Dragon of Wales and the White Hart of Richard II, are all carved from English oak. The garden's architect was Todd Langstaffe-Gowan, who collaborated with James Fox and the Gardens Team at Historic Royal Palaces.

Later years

After the reign of George II, no monarch ever resided at Hampton Court. In fact, George III, from the moment of his accession, never set foot in the palace; he associated the state apartments with a humiliating scene when his father had once struck him following an innocent remark.

In 1796, the Great Hall was restored and in 1838, during the reign of Queen Victoria, the restoration was completed and the palace opened to the public. The heavy-handed restoration plan at this time, reduced the Great Gatehouse (A), the palace's principal entrance, by two stories and removed the lead cupolas adorning its four towers.

On 2 September 1952, the palace was given statutory protection by being grade I listed. Other buildings and structures within the grounds are separately grade I listed, including the early 16th-century tilt yard tower — the only surviving example of the five original towers; Christopher Wren's Lion gate built for Queen Anne and George I; and the Tudor and 17th-century perimeter walls.

Throughout the 20th century in addition to becoming a major London tourist attraction, the palace housed 50 grace and favour residences given to esteemed servants and subjects of the crown. It was an elderly recipient of one such grace and favour apartment who caused a major fire, which spread to the King's Apartments in 1986. This led to a new programme of restoration work which was completed in 1990.

It would serve as the location filmed for the 1966 film A Man for All Seasons, directed by Fred Zinnemann.


According to legend, the ghost of Catherine Howard haunts The Haunted Gallery. Staff have reported hearing screaming and crying and even the thumping on the chapel doors, visitors have also claimed to have unpleasant encounters. Jane Seymour, Henry VIII's third wife is said to appear holding a candle on the anniversary of her son Edward VI's birth. Other ghosts include Henry VIII himself and a woman named Mrs. Sybil Penn, Edward VI's nurse. She died of smallpox in 1562 and her grave was damaged by a storm in the early 19th century. Staff have heard the sound of a spinning wheel and the muttering of an old woman and found a room containing an old spinning wheel.

See also

  • Het Loo Palace
  • List of artists at Hampton Court Palace
  • Treaty of Hampton Court (1562), also known as the Treaty of Richmond, signed on 22 September 1562 between Queen Elizabeth and Huguenot leader Louis I de Bourbon, prince de Condé


  • Williams, Neville (1971). Royal Homes. Lutterworth Press. .

External links

Source en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hampton_Court_Palace